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Subject: Iceland #71 - Hákarl and Brennivín
(Posted on Feb 27, 2014 at 09:02AM ) Tags:
Here’s something you’re not going to see every day on most folks’ dinner tables, even in Iceland. Let’s just say these two things are both an acquired taste, and are certainly a dynamic duo packing a wallop in the culinary experience department. Many might just label it all pretty nasty if your tastebuds run in the mainstream.

Rotten / putrefied / fermented / cured shark meat doesn’t sound nearly as appealing or exotic as hákarl, so let’s stick with the local Icelandic name for it to make it all the more pleasantly palatable.

Good thing it wasn’t on the menu that day for the wedding back in August 2003. Sometimes I am not so sure how many locals actually eat this stuff, as opposed to saving it for “special” occasions with unsuspecting foreign visitors looking for a quintessentially Icelandic experience.

This Culture Vixen piece here nicely covers it all off in gory detail for those that are curious. Maybe after reading it though, you may run screaming into the night and not want to go anywhere near this stuff.

The Brennivín part of the equation is the alcohol needed to wash this first sucker down and kill the taste. It seems to be about the only thing around that will do it. The “burning wine” literal translation is apt. This Georgetowner piece goes on a little more about the drink, and how it got its other name of Black Death (even though it is clear).

I kinda like the Brennivín moniker way better for marketing porpoises [sic], unless you are trying to build up your adventurous, single-guy street cred traveling to weddings all over the place. Featuring this stuff on any wedding menu might be a great way to keep many (or all) invitees away and have them send their regrets on not being able to make it out for your special day in paradise, especially if you promote it as rotten shark cubes coupled with side shots of Black Death.

At the time of this writing, it looks like the first shipment of Brennivin has washed ashore in the USA for imminent distribution based on this Twitter feed, so keeners out there will soon be able to get their hands on a bottle or two of this bad boy. No doubt, folks will be lining up around the block for this fine Icelandic export.

Getting your hákarl fix might be a little harder though. I have not done any research here yet on this puppy, and how to get it in North America easily, so it might be a good excuse (or not, as the case may be) for a quick trip to Iceland. Or just go to that great island, and skip this particular eye-opening taste and smell sensory experience.

And, if you really don’t want to believe me on all this stuff, cuz this is all just some effwit’s ramblings on some wedding novel blog, take a peek at this video below, which nicely covers off this brave gal’s virginal experience with this culinary pairing. Now, even though she ain’t speakin’ da Engrisch here with her commentary, you can just tell how she feels about all of it. She is speaking Danish, after quickly checking with a couple Nordic friends in the know. Trust, but verify, is the way to go on things generally, if you can. 


Bobby Bo gives Nada an A+ for pleasant demeanor throughout the ordeal. A smile goes a long way, especially when you ain’t having such a good time. Plus she goes back for a second kick at the can, even if it doesn't stay in her mouth for long.

If her enjoyment wasn’t enough to convince you about this dining delight, maybe this next video exhibit will.  The "main event" with our unsuspecting Wreckless Eating trio starts in at minute 7:30 if you want to blow through their unrelated "warm-up" dishes, and their journey really gets “graphically” going a little later after they actually take a few of them shark chunks down. Note how even a little plece of this stuff goes a long way in the flavuh department.


Full marks for bravery here to all three, but I kinda wish they had researched it a little more, and known to wash it down with the Black Death, and get rid of that lingering taste that seemed to really bother them. Like the wise old saying, forewarned is forearmed, in case you ever find yourself in this specific situation.

This is a more educational take with a view to the background and preparation thereof, as done in fine typical NatGeo fashion.


Doesn’t that all just want to make you pull away from that device or computer screen, and get out there and push your five senses to the max with all the wonderful things out there in the real world? There is no substitute for travel if you ever have the opportunity. 

Bon appétit, my friends.